Years ago in Chicago, I inspected for termites at a brick bungalow with a cellar and an attached crawlspace. The home was about 45 ft. wide by 90 ft. long. The crawlspace, which was about 75 ft. of that, was only 24 in. tall. Also, it had rats.
As I was putting on my kneepads, the Realtor asked me whether I was ever afraid of dark crawlspaces and rats.
“Nah. The rats are more scared of me than I am of them,” I said.
“You aren’t getting paid enough for this,” she replied.
Once I walked down into the cellar and hopped up into the crawlspace, I was completely enveloped in darkness. However, I noticed there were 2×16-in. boards laid all the way down the length of the crawlspace. As I scooted across the boards on my belly, I could hear the rats scurrying just out of sight of my flashlight beam. I felt like Tim Robbins in “The Shawshank Redemption” when he crawled his way through the prison sewer line.
I reached the end and swiveled around on my belly to begin the return trip. Just then, my flashlight hit a rock and broke the bulb.
I lay there for a moment in total darkness, realizing I had no idea how to get back out. Fortunately, before complete terror took over, I remembered I was on the planks. All I had to do was stay on them, and I’d be able to inch my way back on my stomach.
A few minutes into my return journey, the unthinkable happened: A rat the size of a German shepherd ran across my forearm. I screamed and hauled butt out of there.
As I fell out of the crawlspace, the equally shaken Realtor asked me what happened. I explained a rat ran across my arm.
“I thought you said rats didn’t frighten you?”
“Rats I can handle,” I said, smiling slyly. “It’s what you’re paying for this service that is horrifying!”
Schopen is owner and founder of Schopen Pest Solutions, McHenry, Ill. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him via Twitter: @schopenpest; Instagram: @peteschopen; or Facebook: Schopen Pest Solutions, Inc.